Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law and has been an elected member of Congress for more than 35 years.
But earlier this month, Cardin declared that “hate speech” and speech that “espouses violence” is not protected under the First Amendment. Then he suggested that America should “learn from Europe” regarding government regulation of speech on the internet.
What did Cardin say?
During a meeting of the Helsinki Commission, Chairman Cardin espoused views about free speech that are antithetical to the First Amendment.
The remarks were originally made at a commission meeting on Dec. 13, the topic of which was the “alarming rise of anti-Semitism.” But they received significant attention on social media Wednesday after The Hill republished video of Cardin’s remarks on Twitter.
— The Hill (@The Hill)
Toward the end of the meeting, Cardin said he believes there is a “role for government” to regulate speech on the internet.
“For us,” he said, referring to the government, “establishing parameters because if you espouse hate, if you espouse violence, you’re not protected under the First Amendment. I think we can be more aggressive in the way that we handle that type of use of the internet.
“We know that Europe has done things, and I think we have to learn from each other,” he added.
Hearing: The Alarming Rise of Antisemitism and its Threat to Democracy
Is Cardin right?
Cardin, Maryland’s senior senator, is flatly wrong.
Not only is there no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, but advocating for violence is generally protected under the Constitution. In fact, restrictions to free expression are exceptionally narrow.
Making “true threats,” inciting imminent violence, harassment, and “unlawful conduct” are legal restrictions to the First Amendment — but espousing “hate” and “violence” is not a court-recognized limit.
Just last month, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) declared the First Amendment does not protect against spreading “misinformation.” His erroneous claim led to a prompt lesson in constitutional law.